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Manganaro’s, a feature of 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen since 1893, has closed. For the first time in over 100 years, the block between W37th and W38th Street will not display the Manganaro family name.

Manganaro’s Heroboy — with new signage, but closed. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

Manganaro’s was renowned for its six-foot long hero sandwich, and historically had a reputation to rival Balducci’s, Zabar’s and Dean & Deluca. It was acclaimed by the New York Times in 1963 as “one of New York’s most impressive halls of gastronomy.

In 1920, Neapolitan immigrant James Manganaro took over the deli at 488 Ninth Avenue from his uncle, Ernest Petrucci, who opened his store in 1893. In its place, he created the classic New York eatery, Manganaro Grosseria Italiana. Then in 1956, with business booming, the family bought the vacant store next door, to create the Heroboy sandwich shop.

Maganaro’s Heroboy and Grosseria Italiano, next door neighbors in May 2009. Photo: Google Streetview.

That sandwich store is now shuttered. Nick Accardi, owner of Tavola, the Italian restaurant next door (and site of the original Grosseria) said that COVID-19 is likely to blame. “This was a business that saw two World Wars, the AIDS epidemic, 9/11, prohibition,” he says, “but what we just went through was one of the most difficult experiences ever.“

The original Grosseria closed in 2011 after a thirty-year family feud that W42ST food writer Michael Muñoz described as “more family drama than the entire run of Days of Our Lives.” The bitter dispute started when one brother was given the deli, and the other the neighboring sandwich shop. Which one was responsible for the hero? Which one had the rights to the family name? The question was answered over a series of lengthy legal battles played out in the pages of the New York press, bringing headlines such as “A Family, a Feud and a Six-Foot Sandwich.

A happy customer! Michael Muñoz trying a Manganaro’s Hero for size in October 2019. Photo: Kristin Camping.

Seline Dell’Orto, the last generation of the family to own the Grosseria before closing, wrote in The Manganaro Italian Family Cookbook: “I remember growing up around the store and getting in everyone’s way. I loved the smell of the fresh imported cheeses and sausages. I would watch my father for hours as he sliced meat paper-thin and made sandwiches for hungry customers. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 that I began working in the store. Like everyone else who starts at Manganaro’s, I was assigned first to the kitchen, making sandwiches and salads. Soon I graduated to hot foods and then got to work the counters. It was the training I needed to run the business I do today.”

With the deli gone, for the past 10 years it’s been left to the six-foot sandwich to be the hero of 9th Avenue. The size of the sandwich was always ideal for catering. Even at the height of the pandemic — with the 244 seat dining room closed — the shop was kept busy delivering to frontline workers. Wilson Rivas led a team making hundreds of meals for essential hospital and transportation staff throughout the city.

Wilson Rivas led a team of workers at Manganaro’s during the pandemic, making food for frontline workers.

USA Today reported in 1983: “New York’s hero sandwich got its name in the 1930s from Clementine Paddieford, food writer for the now defunct New York Herald Tribune. She said of the sandwiches made at Manganaro’s that “you had to be a hero to finish one.” Back then, clients for his 6ft sandwiches — serving 40 people and weighing 22 pounds — included Senator Jacob Javits (who now has a whole conference center named after him a couple of blocks away). It’s appropriate that the final year of the business saw them being heroes in the times of COVID-19.

Newspaper cuttings were always proudly displayed at Manganaro’s Heroboy.

The hero was not the only “food first” for Manganaro’s. Back in 1944, as war raged in Europe, the New York Times talked about “an Italian paste which, though not new, is relatively little known.” They said that it “may be found at most Italian grocery stores, and specifically at Manganaro’s, 488 Ninth Avenue, where it sells for 28 cents.” The paste was PESTO — and this was its first culinary mention in America (although it didn’t really find a place in the US kitchen until the 80s and 90s).

“Years ago my parents used to travel with the Baldaccis of the Baldacci’s Specialty Food Market. It was in the years when we, Baldacci’s, Zabar’s and Dean & Deluca used to have a friendly competition to see who could carry things first,” Seline recalled to the historian, Justin Watrel.

One of the final 6-foot long heroes to roll out of Manganaro’s kitchen.

It’s hoped that the rich, international food history of 9th Avenue can be preserved. Even with the loss of businesses like Empire Coffee & Tea after 112 years — there are still names like the 90-year-old Esposito Meat Market, International Grocery, Sea Breeze Fish Market and Longo Bros around. Now locals want a part of Hell’s Kitchen lodged in the National Register of Historic Places as Paddy’s Market. The proposed historic district runs from W35th to W40th Street on both sides of Ninth Avenue.

Manganaro Grosseria Italiano in November 2007, before it closed and became Tavola. Photo: Alan Turkus/Creative Commons.

Joe Restuccia, Executive Director of Clinton Housing Development Company, is leading the initiative to bring back Paddy’s Market. “We can create an identity for this area that will encourage economic development and tourism, as well as helping the recovery of retail businesses impacted by COVID-19,” he said. The project has support from Manhattan Community Board 4 and the Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance.

Some elements of Manganaro’s live on. Nick Accardi kept the original sign, shelves, doors, and ceilings of the Grosseria when he created Tavola. Nick feels he is still connected to the family. “They were such a presence, I could really feel the ghosts here,” he says “The family also lived in the building. There were three generations of Manganaros that were born here, died here, were married here, they laughed, they cried here. Their energy is seeping through the walls.”

Nick Accardi, kept the original sign, shelves, doors, and ceilings of the Grosseria when he created Tavola. Photo: Christian Miles.

Join the Conversation

18 Comments

  1. I’ve only been in the neighborhood for 34 years but I’ll miss this iconic business. As we emerge from this crisis, I hope no other long-term landmarks will close. I shop locally to do my part.

  2. One day in 2011 we were walking down 9th Ave and saw that the deli closed and was being cleared out. We were looking in the window and a lady offered to give us a tour and provided a little history lesson. We ended up buying a beautiful wooden drawer from the wall of cabinets which we use in our shop Fine And Dandy today.

  3. I wanted to thank you for mentioning my article on Manganaro’s that I wrote years ago for the ‘Soup Scoop’ Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen’s newsletter. It was a pleasure talking to Ms. Dell’Orto that day. Manganaro’s was a nice place to go for lunch. I just wondered how you found it.

    1. It was through a Google search. Wish we had space to use more of the quotes, but we linked to the article so our readers could find out more from your interview. Thx.

  4. From 1983 to 1992 I worked a 1-9pm shift on 36th st near 9th Ave. I must have eaten dinner at Hero Boy at least twice a week. Loved the chicken cutlet hero, as well as the baked ziti. Really sad to hear they’re gone!

  5. My first job out of college I sold them beer. Very nice people to me, both stores. Walking or driving around Manhattan thousands of these little stores are toast. The Di Blasio’s need to be jailed. Unanswered billions his wife has left unaccounted for and now $30 billion for ad campaign for a lawless city.

  6. I moved to Penn South from the Upper West Side in 2009. I had a party to show family my new home. It was a no brained to pick up the phone and order from Hero Boy. They brought everything I needed. I am sad to see it go.

  7. I can’t believe this, it can’t be true, i remember in the 80’s my friend’s moms working there and we would go there and get sandwiches, loved the chicken cutlet. I spent a lot of time on that block.

  8. so upsetting, but thanks for the article…it seems my history as a resident of HK gets erased more and more each week…..sigh

  9. I am devastated! My dad always would bring us there, from Brooklyn, or order the six-foot hero for family gatherings and celebrations. More memories than you could imagine . . . this is a huge loss.

  10. Another piece of the gritty remnants of HK gone once again but time marches on… Starbucks, anyone??

  11. So sad to see them go. Been going to Manganaros since the 80’s. The best Chicken Parm and Rice Balls. Their sauce and heros were really good too. Era Gone. Thanks for the memories!!

  12. My father worked at the Times on 43rd; we went there or ordered the 6 footer for graduations from the 60s until the 80s.. many memories

  13. My all time lunch spot when I worked at the Garden. City is losing its character with every place like Manganaro’s that closes. Who can live off of kale shakes and yogurt?

  14. Balducci’s, not “Baldacci’s”, right? And RIP Manganaro’s; there was nothing like it. Any restaurateur-wannabe hedge-funder out there who’d resuscitate a NY classic? Please step up…

  15. Hey everyone, very sad to hear they closed. Does anyone know where or if we can buy anything that had their name on it? It was a special place for a good friend of ours. Please email us at lkincars@verizon.net. Thank you!

  16. I worked over Christmas and Easter school vacations picking up pork products from George Kern’s around the corner from Mangeneros.
    When I was at Columbia- brought Mangeneros to various events on the upper West Side. Shame to see it closed. My wife and I ate at Tavola and passed the new signage and noted the closing- Did recognize the sign at Tavolas.. C’est Domage

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